According to Dr. William Howland, an allergist in Austin, Texas, many of his patients have a hard time knowing the difference between colds, flu, and allergies. Using these few simple tips, Dr. William Howland says that it’s not so difficult to determine what your ailment is.
A cold is a viral infection. Many cold victims Dr. William Howland sees have one thing in common: exposure. Dr. William Howland first determines whether or not a patient has been around a contagious person, increasing the possibility of infection. According to Dr. William Howland, colds initially have the same symptoms as allergies, but the addition of systemic symptoms like fever and all-over achiness distinguish infection from allergy. Dr. William Howland estimates that the average child contracts 4-12 colds per year, with adults suffering 2-6 colds per year.
Flu, on the other hand, is more serious, Dr. William Howland says, involving prolonged fever and severe body aches, along with possible stomach upset. The duration can be much longer than a common cold, Dr. William Howland says, with the flu and it’s possible complications like pneumonia or increase in asthma persisting for as long as three or four weeks. A cold generally lasts 5-10 days, according to Dr. William Howland. Dr William Howland advises annual flu shots to his patients.
While allergy symptoms can be less intense than those of the common cold or influenza, they generally persist much longer, Dr. William Howland says. For some of Dr. William Howland’s patients, allergy season never quite ends, with ragweed season switching to Cedar season before progressing to oak season, in Austin this can mean symptoms from August to June. In addition, many of Dr. William Howland’s patients are allergic to common household allergens like dust mites and pet dander, which create full-time problems.
With an allergy, Dr. William Howland stresses that itching and sneezing are more common. The body aches that come with viruses aren’t usually present, nor are glandular swelling or fever. Another way to determine if your condition is allergy-related, Dr. William Howland advises, is to see if your condition responds easily to antihistamines and decongestants. While long-term allergy sufferers wouldn’t want to rely on over-the-counter medications on a daily basis, Dr. William Howland advises this as a short-term remedy to determine whether a patient is dealing with allergies, a cold, or the flu.
Dr. William Howland is an Austin-based medical doctor specializing in the treatment of allergies and asthma. Board certified in Allergy and Immunology, as well as Internal Medicine, Dr. William Howland is research director at Sirius Clinical Research, an allergy research facility in Austin.